Apologizing: Good for Your Reputation

Often I’m amazed at how the universe conspires to hit me over the head with a theme, yelling “You MUST blog this!” That’s just happened this morning on the theme of apologies. Particularly, how crucial apologies are to public discourse — and to re-establishing broken trust with your core community and the general public.

Everyone messes up sometime. However, acknowledging your role in a problem, apologizing for it, and making amends is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it’s often the bravest, strongest, smartest, and most constructive thing an individual, publisher, or organization can do. Especially because conversational media has a way of amplifying any failure to apologize, thus making the consequences of your original screw-up much worse in the long run.

Here are all the hints on this theme that fate has handed me in the last 24 hours…

READ MORE at my other blog, The Right Conversation…

Google Adsense: DMCA policy

Following up on my earlier posts: It turns out that Google has a policy for its Adsense program regarding abuses that involve infringement of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). They explain in detail how to file DMCA-related complaints.

Note that this is not a strictly online process. They require a written and signed complaint letter as well (snail mail or fax).

After the instructions, Google offers some vague information about account termination:

“Many Google Services do not have account holders or subscribers. For Services that do, Google will, in appropriate circumstances, terminate repeat infringers. If you believe that an account holder or subscriber is a repeat infringer, please follow the instructions above to contact Google and provide information sufficient for us to verify that the account holder or subscriber is a repeat infringer.”

Hmmmm… OK, I interpret that as meaning that a single complaint is probably not sufficient to shut down a splogger’s Adsense account. What’s unclear is whether a single complainer must document two instances of DMCA infringement from the same splog separated by time in order to justify a claim of “repeat” abuse — or whether Google keeps track of all DMCA complaints and as soon as one account gets two documented complaints against it, it’s toast.

…That is, if Google deems the circumstances “appropriate” for termination, whatever that means.

I’ll ask Google about this when I get a chance. In the meantime, can anyone with experience in making these complaints according to Google’s process shed further light on this? Please comment below.

Shutting Down Sploggers via Google Adsense

As I mentioned earlier, as far as I’m concerned, hunting down and shutting down individual splogs is a waste of energy — because a splogger can set up another (or dozens) of new sites quickly and easily for each one that gets shut down.

Many bloggers
have been discussing this issue, with a deluge of often-heated comments in the wake of these posts.

Somewhere in that multilayered discussion, I saw someone mention what seems like a way to take constructive action against sploggers that’s more meaningful than shutting down a single splog. My apologies, I can’t recall who offered this suggestion.

Anyway, Google Adsense is the most common financial incentive program used by sploggers. I can’t remember seeing a single splog that didn’t carry Google ads. One Adsense account can support a multitude of splogs. Google ostensibly doesn’t approve of splogs, and apparently will cancel Adsense accounts for sploggers who abuse the program.

Therefore, when you find a splog, you can report it to Google and ask them to close the associated Adsense account.

Back on July 10, Quick Online Tips explained how to do that…
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Why hunting sploggers is a waste of energy

The 8th circle of hell: Future home of every splogger on earth.

Several popular bloggers, including Shel Israel, Allan Jenkins, and Jeremiah Owyang, lately have been voicing consternation over the last few days over what appears to be a large-scale, wholesale theft of their content by a splogger site: Bitacle.org. (No, I’m not linking to Bitacle, you can find them if you want to.)

This is a pretty ambitious, but otherwise typical, splog (spam blog): a site that uses automated tools to scrape and republish (without authorization) content from other sites as a lure for high-paying contextual ads from Google and other services.

(UPDATE SEPT. 23: Today I learned that David Martín, who claims to work with Bitacle, posted a comment to this Lutrov.com posting back on July 28, 2006. He offered what I consider specious and fallacious explanations why his site is neither a splog nor a content thief.)

It doesn’t look like Bitacle has scraped my content yet, but this happens often to me — almost daily, in fact. I hate sploggers and what they do, and I agree with Allan Jenkins that there’s a very special place in hell for these miscreants. But personally I don’t invest much effort into tracking down and shutting down sploggers who steal my content. If I did that, I’d do nothing else.

Personally, I think going after the sploggers is the wrong way to address this problem…

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Why Most CEOs Shouldn\’t Blog

A couple of days ago, my friend and colleague Dave Taylor wrote a sure-to-be-provocative blog post, Why Jonathan Schwartz Should NOT Be Blogging. He also was quoted on this topic in a Sept. 16 AP article, and his posting explores his thoughts in more depth — a great strategy for getting more mileage out of mainstream media play, by the way.

Dave lists several reasons why CEOs of major companies are probably not the best people to blog for a company — at least in public, external blogs. (Intranets might be another matter.) One reason that I think is particularly compelling is this:

"Quick, how many CEOs can you name? How many from companies with more than $10 million in sales or more than 500 employees? I thought so.

…In my experience, people outside the company actually don’t care much whether the CEO blogs. While company blogs can be popular, I think that mainly depends on the quality of the conversation that happens there.

A quality corporate blog requires putting someone on the job with these qualifications…

READ THE FULL ARTICLE at my other blog, The Right Conversation

Beyond Blogs: Moleskine Goes Where the Conversation Happens

Like many media pros, I’m a die-hard fan of Moleskine notebooks — especially their small, unlined reporter’s notebook.

Moleskine notebooks aren’t fancy. In fact, this brand’s reputation hinges almost entirely on quality, and on a vocal, dedicated community of customer evangelists — such as Merlin Mann of the popular productivity site 43 Folders.

Therefore, when sharply worded complaints about Moleskin’s quality and service erupted on the 43 Folders Google Groups forum on Aug. 15, Modo & Modo (manufacturer of Moleskine notebooks) had a pretty big problem.

Apparently, some Moleskine notebooks started falling apart after just a few weeks or months of use. Some owners of these defective notebooks tried contacting Moleskine US, but got no response. Later, it turned out that Moleskin US is not the US distributor for this brand. The official US distributor is Kikkerland Design Inc. But in the meantime, these customers believed Moleskine was ignoring them. Not good.

Clued in by e-mails, Moleskine maker Modo & Modo began checking out the online complaints. On Aug. 30, the company posted a sincere apology on its blog. They offered an explanation of their late response: they’re a small company, and in Italy everyone’s on vacation in August — not a great answer, but an honest one. They also offered clear instructions on how owners of defective notebooks could get their problem addressed.

Even smarter, Modo & Modo posted the full text of this statement onto the 43 Folders forum where the complaints arose. It’s interesting to note that, despite earlier frustrations aired in that forum, all the responses to the company’s apology were positive and supportive.

This story demonstrates the importance of three lessons for all organizations who understand how conversational media can help make or break your reputation…

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE on the Capture the Conversation blog

Why I Ditched Most of My Feeds, and Changed to NetNewsWire

I was just overwhelmed. My "system" felt organized at first, but it got to be chaos. So this weekend I made some radical changes in how I use feeds.

For a long time, I’d kept over 400 feeds organized into about 20 topic areas (environment, energy, science, women, law, etc.) bundled into my former favorite feed reader, Sage (a Firefox plugin). I figured since they were bundled neatly into folders and alphabetized within, I could find what I wanted easily.

But gradually I realized that I almost never looked at most of the feeds my topic folders. The only ones I scanned regularly were task-related — mostly search feeds based on specific topics I’m currently following, and I change these a lot.

Bearing that in mind, this weekend I ditched all  my general topic folders from my feed list — about 80% of my subscriptions. But now, since my feeds are more focused on exceedingly timely and personally relevant sources, I think they’ll help me participate in online conversations — public and private.

You can read more at The Right Conversation about the changes I made…

How Movie Theaters Might Thrive in an On-Demand, Long Tail World

Last night, my husband and I went out to the movies — something we rarely do, since we think movie tickets are drastically overpriced and prefer the convenience and selection of Netflix. However, every once in a while we still get the urge.

Since we were in the mood to mock, we went to see the remake of The Wicker Man. We figured it had to be better than the 1973 original. We were wrong — which was good news, given our intent. The remake offers even more heckling fodder, with substantially less coherence than the original. And if you’ve seen the original, you know that’s really saying something.

But I digress…

For a Saturday evening, the huge AMC theater complex at Flatiron Crossing Mall looked pretty dead. If I were managing that theater, I’d be nervous. As on-demand entertainment becomes more popular, what reason to people have to keep making the trip to movie theaters — especially when most of your choices there are overhyped, lowest-common-denominator, gutless, and mindless attempted blockbusters?

I had an idea about that: What if movie theaters joined forces with a social networking service such as Meetup.com to make it easier for communities to pick their own movies and fill the seats? In essence, make it easy to arrange movie parties or similar events?

Here’s how that might work…

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Katie Couric, via search feeds

Yesterday, my editor at Poynter Online, Bill Mitchell, asked me for ideas for covering how Katie Couric’s debut last night as the new CBS Evening News anchor is playing online.

Well, I honestly didn’t watch her show last night. I was really tired and went to bed early. I almost never watch TV news anyway. However, the net is indeed abuzz with commentary and more about Katie Couric this morning.

When I’m trying to follow buzz or monitor conversations or topics online, one of my primary tools is to set up a group of search feeds.

Many online services allow you to save a search as a feed (what the geeks call "RSS"). This is helpful because then you’ll receive in one place (your feed reader) a fairly organized, chronological list of the latest content that matches your query terms. In other words, you don’t have to keep looking for new results — they keep coming to you. At the Society of Professional Journalists conference a couple of weeks ago, I listed search feeds as an indispensable tool to help reporters cover a beat or a specific story.

If you haven’t ever used a search feed, the current Katie Couric buzz provides a great example. Since she’s famous, her name shows up in all sorts of places. However, this is also a not-so-great example, because searches for her name turn up so many hits that it takes considerable sifting and fine-tuning to make a meaningful assessment of what people are thinking or saying about her.

This morning I assembled a collection of search feeds for the query "Couric" drawn from nearly a dozen online sources. Only one of these directly represents mainstream media (sort of, it’s from the CBS Couric & Co. blog). The rest are mostly from sites that aggregate mostly non-MSM content, such as blogs.

Search feeds are a great way to follow the "live web." First-generation search engines such as Google and Yahoo crawl the web, index much of its contents, and deliver results based mainly on relevance. Often, older content makes the top of the list. In contrast, web 2.0-focused services such as Technorati quickly index new content that gets delivered to them by feed, so their results tend to be more up-to-the-minute than Google (although often more varied in relevance).

So if you want to find out what people are saying about something right now, look to Technorati or any of the other sources I’ve used below — not Google or Yahoo.

See my other blog, The Right Conversation. There, I’ve posted my collection of Katie Couric search feeds and a sample of current results from each…